Tuesday 4 September 2018

Theology of the Body for Beginners - Christopher West - Rediscovering the Meaning of Life, Love, Sex and Gender

Theology of the Body for Beginners: 
Rediscovering the Meaning of Life, Love, Sex and Gender
Saint John Paul II Edition
Christopher West
Wellspring Publishing
Beacon Publishing for
Dynamic Catholic
ISBN 9781635820072

eISBN 9781929266456

This book is the third revision of this text. And is in some ways a culmination of almost two decades work on this topic by Christopher West. Previously I have only read one book by Christopher West, Love Is Patient, But I'm Not: Confessions of a Recovering Perfectionist, and it was an amazing read. And I doubt you could find a Catholic that has not heard about Saint Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. So it was about time that I dove into this topic myself. This book was first published in 2002, revised in 2009 and this third edition was released in 2018. I have the eBook of the second edition, and it has been sitting in my 'to be read pile' for a long time, but when I read about this new edition I picked it up and devoured it. The chapters in this book are:

One: What Is the Theology of the Body?
Two: The Creation of the Body
Three: The Redemption of the Body
Four: The Resurrection of the Body
Five: Celibacy for the Kingdom
Six: Marriage as a Divine Gift
Seven: Marriage as a Human Sign of Divine Love
Eight: Theology in the Bedroom

The beginning of the description of this book is:

"Divorce. Broken families. Sexual abuse. Addiction. Pornography. Same-sex marriage. Gender issues. Everywhere we look, we find more and more confusion about the most fundamental truths of human life. As we lose our basic understanding of the meanings of man, woman, marriage, and sex, the question becomes ever more urgent: What does it mean to be a human being? The human race seems unable to answer this question."

If we look at secular culture today we can see the world turning itself over to every kind of identity issue. The sexual revolution has run amok and we have the #me2 movement and the clergy abuse scandal of 2018 that highlight the opposite ends of those failures. In this book Christopher West gives an introduction, and summary of Saint Pope John Paul II's teachings on the theology of the body. He delves into questions on the meaning of life. How do we fulfil our deepest desires? Questions around God having created us male and female, and what that means to us as individuals and as societies.  And he draws us to conclusions around finding true happiness on earth and eternal life through finding God's will and pursuing it.

In many ways this book is a crash course or 'Coles Notes' on decades of writings from Pope Saint John Paul II. It is an easily accessible read, and would be good for high school students, university students and adults beginning their study of this subject. Looking back on my own life and my years away from the Catholic church a book like this would have caused me much less hurt, and helped me to hurt others less. 

This book is thoroughly Catholic. It clearly and concisely explains many aspects of the Catholic world view around sex, sexuality, and intimacy. I know that Christians of other denominations have used this book for study, but if you are not Christian there is likely much in this book that would be opposite your world view. It was an excellent read and I wish I had read it earlier. And I give this new edition top marks.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Christopher West:
Good News About Sex & Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching
Heaven's Song
At the Heart of the Gospel: Reclaiming the Body for the New Evangelization
The Love That Satisfies: Reflections on Eros & Agape

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